Dhaka, June 19 (UNB) - ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and Progressive Voice on Wednesday said the government of Myanmar must ensure that the human rights of the Rohingya community are protected and respected.
The organizations said safe conditions should be in place in Rakhine State before any Rohingyas are repatriated from Bangladesh.
The organizations made the call as Southeast Asian leaders are preparing to meet in Bangkok, Thailand for the 34th ASEAN Summit from June 20-23.
Earlier this month, a leaked copy of a preliminary needs assessment in Rakhine State carried out by an ASEAN body failed to acknowledge Myanmar military atrocities and ongoing human rights abuses against the Rohingya.
“ASEAN needs to stop turning a blind eye to Myanmar’s atrocities against the Rohingya, and cease lending legitimacy to the repatriation process,” said Eva Sundari, Indonesian MP and APHR Board Member.
Sundari said they all know the Rohingya population in Bangladesh and elsewhere will not be returning home voluntarily until the situation on the ground in Rakhine State dramatically alters.
“A huge political shift is needed for things to start moving in the right direction. Not one thing that the Rohingya themselves have identified as prerequisites for their return, and which has been echoed by rights groups and other experts, has been taken on board in any serious way by the Myanmar authorities.”
More than 700,000 Rohingya fled from Myanmar into Bangladesh after the Myanmar military launched a vicious “clearance operation” in August 2017, killing thousands of people and burning villages on the ground.
An UN-mandated fact-finding mission in September 2018 called for the Myanmar military top brass to be investigated and prosecuted for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
On June 7, a copy of the “ASEAN Preliminary Needs Assessment for Repatriation in Rakhine State” report by the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre) and their Emergency Response and Assessment Team (ASEAN-ERAT) was leaked to the media.
The draft report ignores the root causes of why hundreds of thousands of Rohingya were forced to flee their homes, including the atrocities committed by Myanmar security forces and their proxies as well as the institutionalized discrimination imposed by Myanmar authorities against the minority in Rakhine State for decades. Furthermore, the draft report fails to mention the word “Rohingya”, instead calling the community “Muslims”.
Khin Ohmar, Chair of Progressive Voice Advisory Board said unless concrete steps towards international accountability for the genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes are taken, ongoing impunity will only embolden the Myanmar military to commit more such atrocities.
“And any returned refugees will be vulnerable to the same violence that caused them to flee in the first place; this will be like sending them back to the killing fields to be re-victimized.”
Clashes between the Myanmar security forces and the Arakan Army ethnic armed organization have displaced at least 30,000 people since the beginning of the year, further underlining the precariousness of the situation in Rakhine State.
As the ASEAN report on the refugee repatriation process is expected to be officially released to the public in the coming weeks, APHR, FORUM-ASIA and Progressive Voice call on ASEAN to ensure that the bloc does not become complicit in the forced or premature repatriation of Rohingya refugees.
ASEAN must also take meaningful steps toward the promotion and protection of the rights of the Rohingya community, including through acknowledging their identity, restoring their full citizenship, and through ensuring their participation in all decisions concerning them.
John Samuel, Executive Director of FORUM-ASIA said ASEAN has so far remained shamefully silent in the face of the serious human rights violations taking place in one of its Member States.
“With the second anniversary of the Myanmar military’s latest ‘clearance operation’ approaching, continued inaction by ASEAN will send a dangerous signal that the bloc is indifferent to the plight of the Rohingya and that human rights violations can be carried out with impunity.”
Dhaka, June 19 (UNB) - Refugees originating from Myanmar represented the fourth largest population group by country of origin and most Rohingyas from Myanmar were hosted by Bangladesh (906,600) at the end of the year 2018, says a global report on Wednesday.
However, according to government data, Bangladesh is now hosting over 1.2 million Rohingyas and most of them came since August 25, 2017.
The number of people fleeing war, persecution and conflict exceeded 70 million in 2018 and this is the highest level that UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has seen in its almost 70years.
By the end of 2018, this Rohingya population stood at 1.1 million, about the same as in 2017, according to data from UNHCR’s annual ‘Global Trends’ report released on Wednesday.
Most refugees from Myanmar were hosted by Bangladesh (906,600) at the end of the year, a slight decline from the end of 2017 (932,200) due to improvements in registration methods.
Other countries with sizable populations of refugees from Myanmar were Malaysia (114,200), Thailand (97,600) and India (18,800).
UNHCR’s Representative in Bangladesh Steven Corliss responded to the report urging the international community to show increased solidarity with Bangladesh.
“The figures released today once again demonstrate the generosity of the Government and people of Bangladesh in providing safety for so many Rohingya people forced to flee their homes”, he said.
Steven Corliss said the 2019 Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis launched earlier this year seeks to raise US$ 920 million for the needs of the Rohingya refugees and affected Bangladeshi host communities.
“As of today, the appeal is less than a quarter funded. This is deeply worrying given that we are approaching the second half of 2019 and have entered the annual monsoon season, with high winds and heavy rains putting refugees at risk and damaging homes almost daily,” he said.
Steven Corliss said humanitarian agencies must receive the funding needed to continue delivering life-saving assistance and to improve conditions for refugees and host communities in Bangladesh.
Data shows that almost 70.8million people are now forcibly displaced. To put this in perspective, this is double the levelof 20 years ago, 2.3 million more than a year ago, and corresponds to a populationbetween that of Thailand and Turkey.
The figure of 70.8 million is conservative, in particular as the crisis in Venezuela is still onlypartly reflected in this number. In all, some 4 million Venezuelans have left their countrysince 2015 making this among the world’s biggest recent displacement crises.
Althoughthe majority need international refugee protection, as of today only around half a millionhave taken the step of formally applying for asylum.
UN High Commissioner for Refugee Filippo Grandi said what they are seeing in these figures is further confirmation of a longer-term rising trendin the number of people needing safety from war, conflict and persecution.
He said while languagearound refugees and migrants is often divisive, they are also witnessing an outpouring ofgenerosity and solidarity, especially by communities who are themselves hosting largenumbers of refugees.
“We are also seeing unprecedented engagement by new actorsincluding development actors, private businesses, and individuals, which not only reflectsbut also delivers the spirit of the Global Compact on Refugees,” said Filippo Grandi.
He said, “We must build on these positive examples andredouble our solidarity with the many thousands of innocent people who are forced to flee their homes each day.”
Within the 70.8 million figure in the Global Trends report are three main groups.
The firstis refugees, meaning people forced to flee their country because of conflict, war orpersecution. In 2018, the number of refugees reached 25.9 million worldwide, 500,000more than in 2017.
Included in this total are 5.5 million Palestine refugees who are underthe care of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.
The second group is asylum seekers - people outside their country of origin and receivinginternational protection, but awaiting the outcome of their claim to refugee status. At theend of 2018 there were 3.5 million asylum seekers globally.
The third and biggest group, at 41.3 million, is people displaced to other areas within theirown country, a category commonly referred to as Internally Displaced People or IDPs.
Overall growth in displacement continued to exceed the rate at which solutions are beingfound for people who become displaced.
With refugees, the best solution is being able toreturn home voluntarily, in safety and dignity.
Other solutions include being integrated intothe host community or being resettled to a third country.
However, only 92,400 refugees were resettled in 2018, less than 7 per cent of those awaiting resettlement. Some 593,800refugees were able to return home, while 62,600 became naturalized.
“With every refugee situation, wherever it is, however long it has been going on for, therehas to be an enduring emphasis on solutions and removing obstacles to people being ableto return home,” said Grandi.
“This is complex work in which UNHCR is constantlyengaged but which also requires all countries to come together for a common good. It isone of the great challenges of our times.”
Dhaka, June 19 (UNB) - Bangladesh has urged businesses of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to invest in agro processing industries and import fruits and vegetables from Bangladesh.
State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam conveyed it to UAE Minister of State for Food Security Mariam Al Mheiri during a working lunch hosted by Alam in honor of Mariam Al Mheiri at the State Guest House Padma on Tuesday.
The UAE State Minister invited the Bangladesh State Minister to visit the UAE while a discussion could be arranged with the top UAE investors in this sector.
During the lunch they exchanged views on different issues of bilateral relations and cooperation, particularly in the area of agriculture, animal husbandry, fisheries, agro-processing and other sectors of food security, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here on Wednesday.
They also discussed the mutual cooperation in the international fora for food security.
The two State Ministers referred to the successful visit of the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to the UAE in February this year and emphasized on implementation of the MoUs signed during the visit with regard to UAE investment in Bangladesh.
Among others, Acting Foreign Secretary Mahbub Uz Zaman and UAE Ambassador in Dhaka Saed Mohammed Saed Hmaid Almheiri attended the lunch programme.
Dhaka, June 18 (UNB) - Japanese Ambassador to Bangladesh Hiroyasu Izumi on Tuesday said the power of sport can unite and solidify people regardless of race or nationality.
He made the remarks while addressing a reception held at his official residence to promote peace through sport.
The reception was held to enhance sporting exchanges.
Japanese rock-God Miyavi who visited Rohingya camps on Sunday and Monday said, "I strongly believe that we can do more with music to get delivered the message to the whole world."
He said as an ambassador it is really meaningful to see and witness what is happening in the Rohingya camps and other refugee camps in the world. "I was very happy to see the progress (in Cox's Bazar camps)."
The Rohingya children in the camps received the footballs donated from the people of Japan.
On Monday, the Embassy of Japan and UNHCR organized a hand-over ceremony of football equipment during Miyavi 's visit to Cox's Bazar.
The football equipment was donated from the people of Japan to the refugees and handed over to UNHCR through Miyavi.
In Cox’s Bazar, he met the Rohingyas and played football with Rohingya children with the donated equipment as well as sang songs together.
It was his second visit to Cox’s Bazar after February 2018.
“I am impressed that music and sport activities can not only bring smiles to Rohingya children, but also empower refugees who are in difficult situations,” said Miyavi.
He also added “I appreciate the donation by the people of Japan and will continue advocating the refugee causes”.
UNHCR will distribute the equipment to community centers in the refugee settlements and schools in the host communities.
Japan will host Rugby World Cup in 2019 and Olympic/Paralympic Games in 2020, which will be an opportunity for people all around the world including refugees to enjoy and share the special moment together.
One of the Rohingyas will also attend the Olympic/Paralympic Games in 2020.
Steven Corliss said sports bring people together across the boundaries of language, culture, nationality and legal status.
“They help displaced people to recover from trauma and to give their life purpose. UNHCR is grateful that the Refugee Olympic Team will again participate in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo hosted by Japan,” he said.
Japan will host Rugby World Cup for the first time in Asia, and the matches will be organised across Japan from September to November this year.
Following this event, Tokyo will host Olympic and Paralympic Games in summer 2020.
Dhaka, Jun 18 (UNB) – Visiting UAE Minister of State for Food Security Mariam Al Mehairi on Tuesday said her country is keen to import safe and halal meat and fish from Bangladesh.
She expressed the interest during a meeting with State Minister for Fisheries and Livestock Ashraf Ali Khan Khasru.
A UAE delegation, led by Mariam, met Khasru at his office, said an official release.
During the meeting, the state minister informed the UAE junior minister about Bangladesh’s huge development in producing fish and livestock, including cow, buffalo and goat, and self-sufficiency in this regard.
He also offered her to import cattle meat and fish from Bangladesh.
Mariam wanted to know whether the fish and cattle meat produced by Bangladesh would be safe and halal for import by her country.
In reply, the State Minister assured her that meat and fish produced by Bangladesh are safe and halal.
He also informed her that Bangladesh got no objection certificate from the European Union for exporting fish.
The junior ministers also discussed some other issues relating to mutual interests of the two friendly nations.
Meanwhile, in another meeting with Agriculture Minister Dr Abdur Razzaque, Mariam said her country wants to use Bangladesh’s experience in ensuring food security and food autarky.
During the meeting at Razzaque’s office, the UAE junior minister highly appreciated Bangladesh for achieving food sufficiency and food security.
She also expressed her country’s interests in setting up a food processing factory in Bangladesh.
Mariam also said the UAE wants to help Bangladesh in developing infrastructure and the agriculture sector.
She said her government will encourage their private institutions to invest in Bangladesh’s agriculture sector.
The UAE junior minister also assured that her country will assist Bangladesh in using its agriculture potentials.
The Agriculture Minister informed Mariam about Bangladesh’s advancement in the sector, and shared the country’s experience in ensuring food security.